(Mall of Asia Arena)
12:30 p.m. -- Opening ceremonies
2 p.m. --Letran vs. San Beda (S)
4 p.m. -- Mapua vs. JRU (S)
WITH its impressive showing in the summer leagues, Arellano University is tipped to win in the NCAA seniors basketball tournament.
Brandishing an almost intact, veteran roster, the Chiefs are pulling all the stops to capture the elusive crown since joining the league in 2009.
“Arellano has the best point guard in amateur basketball in Jiovanni Jalalon and the best back-up in Kent Salado,” said San Beda mentor Jamike Jarin in yesterday’s Season 92 press launch at the Mall of Asia Arena.
Coach Jerry Codiñera, however, downplayed the Chiefs’ lofty billing, as he reminded their failure to make it to the Final Four last season.
Defending champion Letran, San Beda, Mapua and Jose Rizal University, by simply making it to the post-season last year, still have the potential to make it to the playoffs.
“You can’t count out the Top 4 teams. Fifth lang kami (last season). We still have stuff to work on. We still have to work way up,” said Codiñera.
Behind the heads-up plays of Gilas cadets standout Jalalon and Salado, Arellano ruled Filoil Flying V Premier Cup and Fr. Martin Cup, as the Legarda-based cagers hope to carry over these results into a NCAA championship.
“Nakabuti sa outlook ng team namin yung pre-season. Per tournament focus namin. Compete lang kami ng compete,” said Codiñera, whose team will take on University of Perpetual Help System Dalta on Sunday noontime at the Filoil Flying V Centre.
The new season actually begins on Saturday at the Mall of Asia Arena, with the Knights opening their bid for a second straight title against the Red Lions in an early rematch of last seaosn’s riveting championship series at 2 p.m., to be followed by the Cardinals-Heavy Bombers duel 4 p.m.
For the first time in six years, San Beda is not defending champion as it starts its bid for redemption after its last season’s failure to extend its dynasty.
The winningest squad in the league with 19 championships, the Lions are pinning their hopes to Dan Sara, Javee Mocon, Donald Tankoua, AC Soberano and transferee Robert Bolick.
“Losing your five starters and the best defensive players to graduation...we’re surprised that we’re contenders. Maybe we are doing something good,” said Jarin.
Even without Mark Cruz and Kevin Racal, and coach Aldin Ayo moving to another league, Letran is still looking fine under rookie mentor Jeff Napa.